Students lobby for University

Students+from+the+Universitys+Urbana-Champaign%2C+Springfield+and+Chicago+campuses+gathered+at+the+Capitol+Building+in+Springfield+on+Wednesday+to+lobby+against+Gov.+Bruce+Rauners+proposed+budget+cuts.

Students from the University’s Urbana-Champaign, Springfield and Chicago campuses gathered at the Capitol Building in Springfield on Wednesday to lobby against Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget cuts.

By Michelle Redondo

Students took the opportunity to advocate for the University Wednesday when they traveled to Springfield to fight Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget cuts.

Students from all three University campuses met in Springfield with Illinois legislators for Lobby Day to discuss the proposed 31.5 percent budget cut, or $209 million, to the state’s appropriations for higher education.

Lobby Day is an annual event where students meet with senators and representatives to share their concerns about the University or state, said Tim Knudsen, graduate student in the College of Law.

Roaming the Capitol Building, students presented legislators with facts about the University to fight the proposed budget cuts.

Knudsen said the students view the budget cuts as a scary realization. He said the less money and funding that goes into school, the more the quality of education will decrease. In order to make a bigger impact, Knudsen said he and others on the planning committee for Lobby Day focused on getting more students involved.

“My biggest concern is maintaining quality of the U of I education. The tuition can only go so high until they stop attracting students,” Knudsen said. “I’m concerned the cuts are going to come from faculties, great resources like the Career Center and things that really matter to attracting the best students in the country.”

President Robert Easter said he believes the value of student’s education will continue to be upheld, regardless of the challenges and despite the students’ fears.

“The biggest challenge is the uncertainty and not knowing what we are dealing with,” Easter said. “It will have very real impacts and will make us a very different place.”

Easter said he thinks the out of classroom experience makes the University unique but it is at risk too.

He said he hopes the University can protect the integrity of its faculty, as the cuts could make recruitment more difficult.

“If we are trying to recruit someone who is a star somewhere, there will be a perception that Illinois is a financially difficult place and will be another indirect effect to hiring them,” Easter said.

Senator Chris Nybo, R-24, a supporter of the proposed budget cut, said the cuts would improve the fiscal atmosphere in Illinois as a whole.

Nybo said although the budgets will make it more difficult for students during their time in college, the better economic status will help them get jobs and create revenue faster later in life.

Because universities compete throughout the nation, they have a higher likelihood of funding from outside sources, he said.

“The philosophy is that these are institutions that operate in a free market,” Nybo said.

Those against the budget cuts such as, Senator Scott Bennett, D-52, see universities as a way to continue building revenue for the state.

“When you make cuts, they fall on the students and the next generation that will build this state,” Bennett said. “Students can still go to skill with these cuts, but the debt they carry will decide their future.”

Knudsen said he thinks some cuts must be made due to the financial crisis, but he disagrees with the size of the proposed budget cuts.

If approved, the proposed cuts would go into effect on July 1, starting fiscal year 2016.

“I wouldn’t have spent so many years here if I didn’t think it was such a fabulous university. It’s ranking keeps rising and I would hate to see that success plateau,” Knudsen said. “This university is such a boost to our economy, and I think this should be viewed on a pedestal.”

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